Finally got a chance to see this. It’s bad. Green Book bad.
It starts as a mildly amusing, slick sit-comish comedy structured on a ridiculous premise – in the 1970s, black Colorado cop Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) calls the KKK to join up, and they are eager to have him, so after first contact, he has to use his white partner (Adam Driver) for face-to-face meetings, which creates unnecessarily close shaves.
Why not have Driver simply make the calls and handle the meets?
The answer is – wacky hijinx! And there’s plenty of that.
Eventually, the funny gets less funny and the picture lapses into an absurdist procedural punctuated by overt, earnest philosophical discussions that would make kids in an Oberlin coffee house roll their eyes.
Perhaps sensing the lightness of the fare and his own elapsing clock, Lee goes heavy at the end, utilizing actual footage from the Nazi rally in Charlottesville. It’s like appending pictures of James Meredith’s shooting at the end of a poignant Different Strokes.
It’s a cheap ploy that seeks to elevate the zany caper that preceded it to serious statement. Worse, as pointed out by Boots Riley, director of the infinitely better Sorry to Bother You, Lee’s film is based on a true story, and a less convenient aspect of that story might be that the real Stallworth was infiltrating black organizations to their detriment.
You gotta’ give it to Lee, though. He knows his audience and he oversauced this goose good. Heck, he almost pulled it off.
Alas, Oscar found another cheesy race fable to take home the gold.